How to Become a House Sitter
Here's the thing: house sitting can be ideal or it can be awkward. Getting the right gig is like a dream come true - free home to stay in in some beautiful place where you have access to a vacation but the comforts of home. But it can be really hard to find the right house sit, especially if you don't have experience or you are unfamiliar with the websites that cater to house sitters and home owners looking for sitters.
We've gotten to the point where people are excited about having us come stay with them. We have a lot of experience, we're handy and skilled at various things, from roofing to internet fixes to animal care. We have a few great reviews and a long list of potential references - all of which are positive. Naturally, we didn't start out with all that, so how did we do it?
Chicken and egg problem - how do you get experience if you have no experience? House sit for friends, stay with friends who have animals and learn to care for them, do some work on a farm with a program like Workaway International. Our first couple of house sits were with people we knew, and they were even there part of the time. We took care of a dog and a turtle for a week while friends went on a little vacation. Any experience will help you to be confident and having a reference is like gold.
List Yourself Now
Even if you don't know when you want to house sit, or you aren't sure you will want to anytime soon, just create your profiles for the house sitting websites (more info below). Be honest and candid about experience, interests, and especially the reasons you want to house sit. If you want an inexpensive way to go on vacation and don't mind caring for other people's pets, that is the perfect reason. Paint yourself as responsible, as someone who will care for the home with gratitude and as if it was your own. And mean it.
You may be able to score a house sit just by having a nice profile. Be honest and friendly, and when you contact the owners, be enthusiastic and let your personality show through. One house sit we got early on was earned because of the tone of an email... you know who you like. Sometimes house sitting is actually about chemistry with the owners.
Decide what you want from a house sit. If you are okay with caring for animals, good. But if you don't want to care for animals, be clear about that. You do not want a house sit just because of the location. We were offered a house sit that would have been ideal, but the owner had many, many cats and it just seemed too weird.
House Sitting Websites
We use three different sites. They all require an annual fee for house sitters. You can set up a profile before you pay, and you should do that first thing. You won't be able to contact home owners before you pay, but you can browse listings and home owners can look for you. We have been contacted by home owners without listings who prefer not to give information about their home to anyone who wants to see it online.
Additionally, once you see a listing you like, you can immediately pay your fee and contact the owners, if your profile is all set to go. Below are our experiences with three sites, in order of preference.
This is a relatively new site and there are tons of house sits on it. We just started using it and already we've had success. The search features are pretty good, if a little overwhelming at first. This is the easiest to use and seems to be well organized, which is nice for everyone. So far, home owners have been responsive but they do get a ton of requests.
Mind My House is also pretty user-friendly. In some ways it is the best house sitting website, but it also seems to be the most popular. Each time we contact a home owner, they say they've been inundated with requests and will get back to us - but often we just hear nothing, ever. The map feature is kind of awesome, though, especially if you have a particular place you'd like to go.
This website is awkward to use and is undergoing a face lift, which it desperately needs. But because it is kind of hard to use, the search feature is a bit cumbersome, and it is the most expensive for house sitters, there are way fewer house sitters on this site. We've had luck with this site, too, and it might be ideal for people who are just starting out and want to compete against a smaller pool of house sitters.
Types of House Sits
When you use these websites, there are some really annoying and really convenient things you'll learn. First of all, not all house sits are the same. Home owners have specific needs and they don't realize that other home owners need something else.
For example, there are the home owners who are looking for someone local who can come on a regular basis, perhaps on weekends, to care for their pets when they go away. The words to look for for this type of home owner is "variable dates". People who say they need house sitters for variable dates don't realize, necessarily, that other home owners actually want house sitters for a specific date range because they're going on vacation.
Which leads to another kind of home owner: the vacationer. Vacationers are going to be leaving their home, and possibly pets or farm, and they want or need someone to stay in the home while they're gone. Some people just want someone to keep the house occupied while they're away. In Europe, it is normal to go for a two week to two month vacation in the summer, so there are often many listings for July and August, especially in the UK and France. Of course, there are weekend, week-long, and every length of house sits throughout the year, too, when people are going on vacations or going away for a week or weekend.
Lastly, there are people who own a second home or are selling a home. These people are looking for long term sitters to live in the house until it sells or until they come back for a summer vacation. These tend to be 1, 2, 3, or 6 months or longer. Some owners ask that you only contact them if you can stay for at least 3-6 months.
Being Fast to Respond
All three of these sites offer some kind of subscription service so you can get emails about the newest house sits to be listed. You can decide which regions or countries you want to hear about. One thing that has happened recently is that home owners are flooded with responses right away. They often consider the people who applied early first. It's easy to be too late for a house sit.
Don't be shy about applying to any house sit that would suit you. It's likely that they're all getting tons of responses so you probably won't hear back about many of them. If you do end up as a final candidate for more than one house sit, that's okay. It's also really unlikely that that will happen.
If you've got other questions about house sitting, we're happy to help. Get in touch and we'll do what we can.